Excess Hollywood

In the season of sequels and Happy Meal toys, 05 may be a pleasant surprise.

THE SKELETON KEY

Starring: Kate Hudson, John Hurt and Gena Rowlands

Directed by: Iain Softley

Written by: Ehren Kruger

What it's about: A young woman (Hudson, natch) moves into an old Louisiana house to take care of an elderly, paralyzed man (Hurt). But there's voodoo curses in them thar woods.

Why it will be fabulous: It's from the writer of The Ring and the director of The Wings of the Dove.

Why it will be dreadful: Of course, that same writer and director brought us The Ring Two and K-PAX, respectively.

SUPERCROSS

Starring: Steve Howey, Mike Vogel, Sophia Bush and Aaron Carter

Directed by: Steve Boyum

Written by: Ken Solarz

What it's about: Supercross racing, duh. Two brothers (Howey and Vogel) race their way through the supercross circuit and, most likely, fall off their bikes a lot and fall in love with the myriad young hotties cast in this looks-like-it-was-made-in-1988 feature, which also stars pop "singer" Carter and Robert Carradine. (See, it was made in 1988.)

Why it will be fabulous: Who doesn't like to see sitcom stars in racing movies going around and around a dirt track?

Why it will be dreadful: Okay, you can put your hands down now.

ASYLUM

Starring: Ian McKellen, Natasha Richardson, Hugh Bonneville and Marton Csokas

Directed by: David Mackenzie

Written by: Patrick Marber

What it's about: Stella Raphael (Richardson) is married to Max (Bonneville), a psychiatrist at an asylum for the criminally insane. She becomes infatuated with Edgar Stark (Csokas), a sculptor who mutilated and then murdered his wife -- so of course Stella and Edgar wind up having an affair after he starts working in the couple's asylum-grounds garden. Eventually Edgar escapes to London, Stella follows him, and the poor lad goes bonkers all over again.

Why it will be fabulous: It's based on Patrick McGrath's best-selling novel, which is chilling, and was penned by Marber, whose Closer ranks a close second when it comes to curdling the blood.

Why it will be dreadful: Bet you twenty quid it's a bummer. With an English accent, to boot.

THE 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN

Starring: Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, Catherine Keener and Seth Rogen

Directed by: Judd Apatow

Written by: Apatow and Carell

What it's about: Pretty much what it sounds like: Andy Stitzer (Carell) is an action-figure-collecting geek content to play with plastic people till his co-workers set out to get him laid. Turns out the woman he winds up with is Trish (Keener), who has grandkids herself and isn't terribly interested in sex, which is fine with Andy.

Why it will be fabulous: Carell, late of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, is carving out a nice niche as the discomfiting dweeb with turns in Anchorman and NBC's The Office. And having Apatow on board ain't bad either: He worked on The Larry Sanders Show and Freaks and Geeks and created Undeclared -- a brilliant hat trick, in all. And it's R-rated, which is comedy gold.

Why it will be dreadful: Carell's range is A to A, which might be somewhat, uh, limiting. And you can see the punch line coming from three months away, can't you?

RED EYE

Starring: Rachel McAdams and Cillian Murphy

Directed by: Wes Craven

Written by: Ex-Xena and Buffy scribe Carl Ellsworth

What it's about: An airplane passenger with a fear of flying (McAdams) is blackmailed by her seatmate (Murphy) into becoming his accomplice in a murder plot. She has until the plane lands to try to stop him without endangering her fellow passengers or her father, who's held hostage by Murphy's allies.

Why it will be fabulous: Carl Ellsworth writes well about smart, butt-kicking chicks.

Why it will be dreadful: It already was dreadful back when it was called Turbulence and starred Lauren Holly.

ROMANCE & CIGARETTES

Starring: James Gandolfini, Susan Sarandon, Kate Winslet, Steve Buscemi and Christopher Walken

Written and directed by: John Turturro

What it's about: Believe it or not, it's a musical. A "savage" one. The plot involves Gandolfini's character, who goes by the name of Murder, having to choose between his wife (Sarandon) and his mistress (Winslet).

Why it will be fabulous: It's just insane enough to work.

Why it will be dreadful: Love those actors, but can they sing?

VALIANT

Starring: The voices of Ewan McGregor, Ricky Gervais, John Cleese, John Hurt and Tim Curry

Directed by: Gary Chapman

Written by: Jordan Katz

What it's about: British CG-animated feature about carrier pigeons in the Royal Air Force during World War II.

Why it will be fabulous: In addition to the above names, Jim Broadbent, Rik Mayall, Hugh Laurie and Olivia Williams offer their pipes.

Why it will be dreadful: Even if it's not a visual masterpiece, all those voice talents can't go wrong at once...can they?

ZU WARRIORS

Starring: Sammo Hung and Zhang Ziyi

Directed by: Tsui Hark

Written by: Choi Lee Man and Tsui Hark

What it's about: Yet another highly acclaimed Hong Kong action epic that Miramax has been holding onto for years. It's the sequel to 1983's Zu: Warriors of the Magic Mountain, but don't sweat it if you never saw that one -- the plot's a minor detail. Something about a mystical realm and forces of good and evil, with lots of fights choreographed by the master, Yuen Wo Ping.

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